Academy of Ancient Music
Zankel Hall - Carnegie Hall
Broadcast date: 2015-07-01
Performance date 2014-11-07

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Academy of Ancient Music; Richard Egarr, Director and Harpsichord

Announcer 7:55
Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major

I. Ouverture 7:35
II. Bourree I and II 2:47
III. Gavotte 1:59
IV. Menuet I and II 3:28
V. Rejouissance 2:28

Announcer 3:12
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor

I. Ouverture 6:28
II. Rondeau 1:33
III. Sarabande 2:57
IV. Bourre I and II 1:48
V. Polonaise 2:42
VI. Menuet 1:09
VII. Badinerie 1:34

Announcer 6:47 & 11:45
Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major

I. Ouverture 5:44
II. Courante 2:09
III. Gavotte I and II 2:35
IV. Forlane 1:23
V. Menuet I and II 2:55
VI. Bourre I and II 2:26
VII. Passepied I and II 2:43

Announcer 2:24
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major

I. Ouverture 6:232
II. Air 4:12
III. Gavotte I and II 3:05
IV. Bourree 1:24
V. Gigue 2:40

Announcer 4:26

Total Time: 110:52

[b]Program notes: [/b]

About the Composer

J. S. Bach spent most of his life as a hard-working church musician, tirelessly turning out a prodigious quantity of cantatas, passions, motets, and other sacred music to satisfy the inexorable demands of the Lutheran church calendar. But his contemporaries knew him best as a celebrated virtuoso on the organ and harpsichord. By all accounts, his keyboard technique was highly expressive and extraordinarily economical. �Bach is said to have played with so easy and small a motion of the fingers that it was hardly perceptible,� wrote his biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel. �At length,� Forkel tells us, the composer �acquired such a high degree of facility and, we may almost say, unlimited power over his instrument in all the keys that difficulties almost ceased to exist for him.�

Though it�s less well known, Bach was also a better-than-average violinist. He learned to play the violin as a child�probably under the tutelage of his father, a town piper in Eisenach�and kept it up for the rest of his life. This dual ability was surely a factor in Bach�s first major appointment as Kapellmeister, or director of music, to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-C�then in 1717. In the words of a later court composer, Johann Adam Hiller, the prince �was a great connoisseur and champion of music; he himself played the violin not badly and sang a good bass.�

Thanks to Leopold�s interest and generosity, Bach had at his disposal a group of some 16 expert instrumentalists who inspired not only one or two of the orchestral suites and the six �Brandenburg� concertos, but also his great unaccompanied works for violin and cello. Although Bach himself, according to his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, played the violin �clearly and penetratingly,� it is questionable whether his technique was equal to the daunting challenges posed by his own solo music for the instrument. However, one can readily imagine the composer patiently working out intricate passages on his fine violin by Jacob Stainer, a leading violin maker of the Baroque period.

Bach�s proficiency on keyboard and string instruments proved useful when he became director of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum�a kind of pro-am ensemble that included musicians from the local university�in 1729 and began presenting regular concerts of secular music to a paying public. Over the years, he had composed a wide range of secular instrumental music, from large-scale suites and concertos to solo works for sundry instruments. Much of this repertoire was featured on the concerts Bach organized at Zimmermann�s coffeehouse in Leipzig. In his later years, he was often to be seen at the popular watering hole, leading the resident orchestra from the concertmaster�s stand.

About the Orchestral Suites

Although once considered early works, Bach�s four orchestral suites are now believed to have been written over a period of some two decades in the 1720s and 1730s. All of the extant manuscript sources date from the composer�s tenure in Leipzig, which began in 1723. However, the specific circumstances of the suites� composition and first performances remain obscure. What is known is that they were part of the extensive repertoire that Bach presented with the Collegium Musicum, along with an assortment of instrumental chamber music, concertos, and secular cantatas.

The suites were originally called �overtures� in a nod to the French ouverture, which in the 18th century connoted both an overture in the modern sense�a curtain-raiser for an opera or ballet�and a symphonic work in a more general sense. All four works are built around the nucleus of a four-part string ensemble, variously supplemented with woodwinds, brass, timpani, and one or more continuo instruments that provide the harmonic foundation. Each suite begins with a conventional French overture, a form characterized by a slow, stately introduction followed by a more animated section, usually in fugal style.

For the rest, Bach�s orchestral suites conform to the classical pattern of the instrumental dance suite as it evolved in France, Germany, and elsewhere in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The magisterial French overtures serve to introduce a group of shorter courtly dances, such as a vivacious courante, a broadly lyrical sarabande, and a bouncy gigue. To these Bach adds a variety of other dances, both newer and traditional, as well as movements of a less dance-like character. The format was flexible: No two suites contain the same movements in the same order, though all contain one or more paired dances of contrasting characters.

Singularly, the Polonaise of the B-Minor Suite has a richly ornamented companion movement in the French fashion known as a double.

Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069

It�s no accident that Bach�s two suites in D major are the most resplendent of the four in their scoring: That key was associated with the treacherous �natural� trumpets of Bach�s day, usually pitched in C or D, which lacked valves and were therefore limited to the notes of the harmonic series. The BWV 1069 Suite calls for no fewer than three trumpets and three oboes, which Bach deploys along with the strings in discrete choirs, as can be seen by a glance at the very modern-looking orchestral score. The trumpets mainly serve to add an extra measure of brilliance at the beginning and end of movements. Four movements�the Ouverture, Bourr�e I, Gavotte, and concluding R�jouissance (�rejoicing�)�combine brass, woodwinds, and strings to impressive effect. The reduced scoring of Bourr�e II and the two Menuets gives them a more intimate character, with the former highlighting the bassoon in a lively concertante-style solo.

�Harry Haskell
� 2014 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067

The Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067, stands apart from the three other suites both in its minor-key tonality and in the prominent role Bach assigns to the flute. Indeed, parts of the B-Minor Suite�especially the bouncy, spitfire finale titled �Badinerie� (�dalliance�)�are positively concerto-like, lending credence to the theory that the solo flute part was written for Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin, the resident virtuoso at the Dresden court, where Bach held an official appointment from 1736 to the end of his life. Bach himself copied out the flute and viola parts of BWV 1067 around the time he resumed his duties as director of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum in 1739 after a two-year sabbatical, suggesting that the suite may have been written to order for the ensemble. The Dresden connection may also explain the inclusion of an up-to-date Polonaise, a vigorous Polish-style dance that enjoyed a vogue at the Saxon court: The German elector also ruled as king of Poland.

�Harry Haskell
� 2014 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066

In the C-Major Suite, Bach augments the basic string ensemble with two oboes and a bassoon, thereby not only enriching the sonority, but gaining greater opportunity for contrast. In the slow opening section of the Ouverture, for example, the woodwinds essentially reinforce the string and continuo parts, but the elaborate fugue that follows features extended interludes for the woodwinds alone, like miniature trio sonatas. The smooth-flowing Courante for strings and continuo is the first in a sequence of stylized courtly dances. All except the Forlane come in contrasting pairs, with the first dance repeated after the second in A-B-A form. Thus, for instance, the crisp, springy rhythms of the Menuet I set off the muted, softly swelling strings of the Menuet II. In the Forlane, Bach deftly combines three kinds of motion: a jerky dotted-rhythm melody in the top voice, smoothly running 16th-notes in the accompaniment, and a slow-moving harmonic base.

�Harry Haskell
� 2014 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068

As in BWV 1069, Bach treats the strings, two oboes, and three trumpets (plus timpani) as distinct groupings in the Third Orchestral Suite. In the first movement, the brass accentuate the crisply dotted rhythms characteristic of the Ouverture, periodically add heft to the contrapuntal interplay in the middle section, and enhance the majestic brilliance of the climax. All of this has the effect of heightening the contrast with the ensuing Air, scored for strings and continuo�one of Bach�s most transcendently beautiful and justly popular creations. A pair of lumbering, four-square Gavottes lead to a fleet, light-textured Bourr�e, characterized by wide leaps, and a spirited triple-time Gigue.

�Harry Haskell